New York

Pat Steir

Xavier Fourcade Gallery

Pat Steir shares with Jennifer Bartlett a didactic bent. Many of her works are notes to herself about picture-making or, more exactly, about mark-making. Unlike Bartlett, she does not seem to be presenting an exposition of the possibilities of visual grammar. Her tone is far more private.

One small drawing is a mini-manifesto, with notes arranged in a column like a shopping list written in a hurried hand. She writes, “words are also lines” and again, “lines are pictures.” The equivalency of words and images suggests some awareness of Magritte or Johns, but Steir’s approach is one of tentative inquiry rather than the opaque statement of facts. It is as if she wishes to act as the first mark-maker, exploring through wordscapes the mysterious connections between her thought and the motions of her hand.

Many of the drawings are squares within squares. There are several series of four or five drawings framed together. Each deals with variations on enclosures, borders and central images. In one series of five two-foot-square drawings the borders that frame the central squares are made of written words: “fine . . . fine . . . fine” or “line . . . line . . . line.” In one of this series she writes/draws: “fill my eyes” in one of the squares. In another a black square is bordered with the words “roses roses roses” . . . and in a final image, a drawn rose appears in the center.

Several years ago the concrete poet Emmett Williams titled a course “The Rite of Arting.” This would make an apt description of Steir’s tender wordscapes.

––Paul Brach_